Photo Credit: Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

I write this letter with a broken heart. If you could see me now you would see a computer wet with tears.

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I’m the granddaughter of amazing grandparents. If I would mention their name I’m certain you’d recognize it.

My zaidie was a great ba’al chesed and ba’al tzedakah, and the most understanding and considerate man I ever knew. He never said a harsh word. He never hesitated to tell us when we were wrong but he always did so gently, with kind words and in a manner all of us – my siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles – appreciated.

As long as I live I will never forget my zaidie. The entire family basked in his love. His smile was so bright it could illuminate the darkest room, and his eyes twinkled like stars. You may think I’m exaggerating but anything I say is not sufficient.

Baruch Hashem, Zaidie was very successful. He had a great business and he made all my aunts and uncles a part of it.

My mother (his daughter) had six siblings – two brothers and four sisters. They all had positions in the business and lived very comfortably. I never suffered from lack of anything nor did any of my cousins. We had great vacations, beautiful clothing, beautiful homes, and name recognition that opened every door to us.

I must admit that as a child and teenager I didn’t sufficiently appreciate it. I took it all for granted. But now that we’ve lost it I yearn for those wonderful days.

Zaidie and Bubbie (my bubbie died 10 years before my zaidie) had a most beautiful summer home. The house was palatial. There were bedrooms for all of us. Zaide and Bubbie built the house with that in mind.

“We want all our children to come visit,” Zaidie said. “We want all the cousins to feel close to one another. To see all our children and grandchildren together is the best reason for spending our money.”

We went to that house not just during the summer months but during the rest of the year as well. It was there that we celebrated Pesach and Chanukah and other simchas. In the spring we would go hiking. In the winter we went skiing.

And then Zaidie became ill with cancer.

Now, instead of the beautiful summer mansion, we would gather in his hospital room. Instead of the delicious dinners, we would drink a cup of coffee and nibble on donuts or some other little cakes someone brought along.

When our zaidie saw us he tried to smile but his face was contorted with pain. His words came slowly and with great difficulty. Suffering was etched on his beautiful countenance and the once-twinkling eyes were now dark.

Every day we would visit Zaidie. There was always someone in his room from the family. We made certain he was never without a family member at his side. As the days passed, his condition deteriorated. Helplessly we witnessed him succumb to this terrible illness. The crown of our family was gone.

I know, Rebbetzin, that you have tasted the bitter pill of suffering. I have read your books. I have followed your column. I recall how you wrote about your beloved father and mother and your awesome husband, “the gentle giant.” I never met them but through your books I always felt I knew them.

I hope that from my brief description you likewise feel you know my zaidie.

The shiva period was very sad. We all sat in Zaidie’s house but were painfully divided. It wasn’t anything tangible but there was tension in the air. I didn’t quite understand it and attributed it to the sadness of Zaidie’s passing.

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